Healing from within: Local Group aims to bring Recovery Café to Tulalip-Marysville area

Tulalip Recovery coaches at a recent ethics training hosted by the Tulalip Problem 
Gambling Program and taught by Whaakadup and Lisa Monger.

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

Back in 2020, just weeks before the worldwide COVID-19 outbreak, the Tulalip Problem Gambling Program held a four-day training, over the course of two weekends, designed to build a network of support for local individuals on the road to recovery. Approximately twenty people attended the training and became certified recovery coaches, learning skills to help empower and encourage those battling addiction to stay the course, especially during difficult times when they are on the verge of a relapse. 

“A recovery coach is someone in-between a sponsor and a counselor,” explained Problem Gambling Counselor, Robin Johnson. “They’re not there to tell them what to do. They are not doing the twelve steps with them, that’s not what they’re there for. They’re there to help, depending on their individual needs, finding out what those needs are, and meeting them there.”

She continued, “This is not the first recovery coach training that we’ve had, but it was by far the most successful. We’ve had better response and incorporated not only addiction, or chemical addiction, but also gambling addictions. Our philosophy is that we help the community heal from within, and the more people that we can teach to be recovery coaches, and have them in the community and available to others, that is just going to snowball. That was our hope and that is actually what seems to be happening at the moment.”

Through the recovery coach training, the Problem Gambling program planted a seed that is coming to fruition today. Six of those recovery coaches stayed in contact throughout the pandemic’s stay-at-home mandates, meeting virtually to discuss how they can spread the word and let those in recovery know they are available as a source of support, brainstorming ideas on how they can better serve their community. Ultimately, the group decided they needed a physical space where recovering addicts can go in times of distress and when in need of support, and with that came the idea of opening up a local Recovery Café. 

The original Recovery Café was established in 2004 right here in the Pacific Northwest, in the Belltown neighborhood before migrating to South Lake Union in 2010. Since then, the Recovery Café has assisted not only those wanting to lead a clean and sober lifestyle, but also the homeless population in Seattle as well. 

The café offers a positive environment where people can enjoy coffee and healthy meals while interacting with others in a number of activities including open mic nights and birthday celebrations. Café goers can take part in peer-to-peer groups such as recovery circles and they also have access to computers, WIFI and a plethora of resources. The Recovery Café model has been such a success that over 20 non-profit organizations have opened cafés of their own in cities throughout the country. And recently, a second location was opened in Seattle’s SODO district. 

Although there is an established Recovery Café in Everett, opening a location in the Tulalip-Marysville area will benefit a community that has been significantly impacted by the opioid crisis over the years. This establishment could not come at a better time either as early projections predict that overdose cases and excessive gambling cases have been on the rise since the first wave of the pandemic hit. Offering a space where people can go to simply be around others who strive for the same goal can help during the recovery journey. 

Still in the early planning phase, led by those six individuals who attended the Problem Gambling’s recovery coach training in 2020, the group is working on establishing a board of directors, designing a logo, raising funds and most importantly finding a space to set up shop. Ideally, the group would like the café to be in an area that is convenient and accessible to both Tulalip and Marysville community members. If you happen to be reading this and the perfect location comes to mind, the group would love to hear from you. 

 The recovery coaches also enlisted a number of professionals to help navigate the process of opening up the café, including Tulalip Tribal Prosecutor Brian Kilgore, Tulalip Recovery Liaison Helen Gobin-Henson, Tulalip ODMAP Social Worker Jackson Nahpi, and Robin Johnson and Sarah Sense-Wilson of the Problem Gambling program. The Tulalip Foundation has also leant their expertise to the project, helping the Café become a non-profit organization and apply for and obtain grants. 

“I’m really excited about this group of people,” said Brian. “I think that they’re going to go out into the community and they’re going to create a physical space where people can come in and get wraparound support and services. I think that the power of having a physical place, around which to build services, is going to be really transformative for all the work we’re doing. Government, non-government, volunteers, we’re all working the same problem, right? We’re trying to save lives, trying to get parents back to their kids and rebuild families and communities and stop people from dying, but we just haven’t had a physical place to do it.”

Once the group finds a space to operate, they believe everything should easily fall in place, and they are aiming to have the café up and running by the end of the year. In addition to finding a space for the Café, the recovery coaches will be doing community outreach over the next couple months. If you are interested in helping get this project started and helping people maintain a clean and healthy lifestyle, please contact the Problem Gambling program at (360) 716-4304 for more information. 

Helen expressed, “This project is important because we have nowhere for our people who are sober and clean, or want to get sober and clean, to gather. And we have so many people who are homeless, who are hungry, and they could come to the café and enjoy a meal. I feel like when the people who are sober and clean get together as a group, they can connect with each other and say, ‘Are you going to an in-person meeting today? I’d like to go with you’, or ‘what Zoom meetings are you hitting?’ They can connect there at the café. This is so important to me, to help the people who are sober, and encourage the people who might be thinking about getting sober and clean, find a safe and supportive place to gather.”

Virtual Family Night: Providing education about gambling addiction and building strong support systems

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

“During recovery, it’s really important that your family has an understanding of the addiction, because if you’re not an addict, you just won’t understand it,” said Tulalip Problem Gambling Counselor, Robin Johnson “Especially gambling. Gambling is hugely overlooked as being an addiction, so the family is left thinking, why? Why can’t you just pull yourself up, why can’t you quit, it doesn’t make any sense to them.”

The Tulalip Problem Gambling Program is inviting you to their upcoming virtual event that will take place on September 30, from 5:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Known as Family Night, the monthly event is more than just a social gathering for recovering addicts and their families, but a support group where both friends and family members of recovering excessive gamblers can get a better understanding of the addiction. 

Recovery can be a strenuous journey full of ups and downs as well as milestones and setbacks. Families are often affected throughout the process and also carry the burden of the addiction as well, whether that’s financially, emotionally, mentally, physically or all of the above. The Family Night support group is an opportunity for family and friends to learn about the many tribulations they could face while helping their loved ones on the road to recovery, while also getting insight to what fuels the addiction and how they can help end an often-vicious cycle of trying to hit it big.

The monthly gathering also features guest speakers on occasion, providing recovering addicts and members from groups such as gambler’s anonymous and al-anon a space to share their story, to help serve as inspiration to those in recovery and provide any helpful tips or suggestions to family members, friends and compulsive gamblers alike, as they’re in the same journey together. And if you’ve ever attended a Problem Gambling event in the past, then you already know that it is sure to be an entertaining evening with fun and educational activities and plenty of good-medicine-laughs to go ‘round. 

As a people, Native Americans are at the highest risk of developing a gambling habit. According to a 2019 study conducted by the National Institute on Alcohol and Related Conditions, 2.3% of the entire Indigenous population are battling gambling addiction, one of the highest percentages in the nation. Sarah Sense-Wilson, the Problem Gambling Program Coordinator, predicts those numbers will be on the rise because of COVID-19. Due to restrictions and stay-at-home orders, the amount of online gambling and sports betting is projected to be much higher than usual over the past two years.  

Sarah shared, “There’s been a lot more relapse and people gambling. Whether that’s online gambling or gaming or other forms of gambling, there has been an increase since COVID and it’s been harder for people to really grab ahold of recovery.”

For this reason, it is important that those individuals, who are attempting to escape the grips of excessive gambling, have a strong support group of people they can rely on when the going gets tough. Family Night is the perfect opportunity for recovering gambling addicts to start and build that support system.  

“A big part of recovery is about fellowship and building on that recovery support system, having a network of people who you can draw on for strength, hope, inspiration and support,” Sarah expressed. “There’s still a lot of stigma around this particular addiction. Gambling disorder is a disease, it is an addiction. There’s still huge denial throughout Indian Country and mainstream as well. We’re still way far behind in accepting, acknowledging and supporting people to get help. It’s a hidden illness.”

If you wish to be member of this monthly support group, to better understand the disease and learn how you can assist someone during their recovery journey, all you have to do is RSVP with the Problem Gambling program at (360) 716-4304. And on the day of the event, Thursday September 30 at 5:00 p.m., simply enter this Zoom ID number: 313 507 8314 on either the Zoom app or at www.Zoom.us  Family Nights are held once a month on every third Thursday. 

“Family Nights are really important,” Robin stated. “Because it’s not just as easy as sending your person to treatment and they fix them there and send them back home. The education is a requirement that we have for our clients, that one of their family members or friends attends Family Night during their treatment to gain an understanding. Family Night is about education and gaining information about gambling addiction. We always offer resources, so that beyond us, they have a resource list that they can go to and access.”

Get your huckleberry harvest on before time runs out

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

For thousands of years, huckleberry has served as an important food, medicine, and trade good to the Coast Salish peoples. Mountain huckleberry is most abundant in the middle to upper mountain elevations, and favors open conditions following disturbances like fire or logging. Prior to European colonization, Native peoples managed ideal harvesting locations by using fire and other traditional means to maintain huckleberry growth for sustainable picking.

In 2011, the Tulalip Tribes began working cooperatively with the U.S. Forest Service to sustain huckleberries at a 1,280-acre parcel of land, 4,700 feet above elevation in the upper Skykomish River watershed. This particular location is one of several co-stewardship areas throughout the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest where Tulalip collaborates with the Forest Service to preserve and maintain important cultural resources. 

“It is not only important that we continue the struggle to uphold our treaty rights, but we need to be involved in taking care of those resources our culture depends on so they will be available to future generations.”

– Wisdom from elder Inez Bill

Named swədaʔx̌ali, Lushootseed for ‘Place of Mountain Huckleberries’, this end of summer destination gives Tulalip tribal members an opportunity to walk in the steps of their ancestors and harvest the highly prized mountain huckleberry. The gate to swədaʔx̌ali was officially opened on August 23 and will remain opened, tentatively, through the end of September. 

Northwest mountain huckleberries generally ripen in the late summer and can be picked into the early fall. Huckleberry, well-known for boosting the immune system and being rich in antioxidants, has always had a strong relationship to the area’s Indigenous cultures. Coast Salish tribes consider the huckleberry to be an important dietary staple because of its medicinal properties and sweet, delicious taste. 

“Huckleberry is a food and medicine to our people,” explained Tulalip elder Inez Bill. “Our ancestors visited certain areas for gathering these berries. They knew where the berries were growing, what companion plants were growing there too, and how to use them. 

“Through the teachings of how we value, take care of and utilize our environment, we pass down our history and traditions, and what is important to the cultural lifeways of our people,” she continued. “This connection to the land enables us to know who we are as a people. It is a remembrance. Today, it is not only important that we continue the struggle to uphold our treaty rights, but we need to be involved in taking care of those resources our culture depends on so they will be available to future generations.” 

Wild mountain huckleberries only grow in soils at elevations between 2,000 to 11,000 feet.

swədaʔx̌ali is a prime example of how Tulalip is diligently working to reclaim traditional areas. Stemming directly from the Point Elliot Treaty, which secured claims to gather roots and berries in all open and unclaimed land, the ‘Place of the Mountain Huckleberries” is clear expression of Tulalip’s sovereignty.

Embracing that sovereignty is every tribal member who journeys to this ancestral harvesting area and practices their cultural traditions that continue to be passed on from one generation to the next. The mountain huckleberry is intimately tied with traditional Tulalip lifeways and culture. 

Historically providing an end of summer harvest opportunity, the journey to swədaʔx̌ali strengthens a deep connection to the land.  Nearly 5,000 feet up, in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, berry pickers are completely immersed in the grand splendor that is the Pacific Northwest. Epic views of luscious, green-filled forestry, towering mountains, and clear waterways can be mesmerizing.

swədaʔx̌ali is a sustained effort between Tulalip Tribes and U.S. Forest Service partnership.

“It was a beautiful, uplifting experience. Once we hit the forest, where there were no buildings, no cars, no people, just trees…my spirit soared,” said Lushootseed teacher Maria Rios after staining her hands purple from a day of Huckleberry picking. “I’m fortunate to have the opportunity to speak my language, but that is only a piece of my culture. Berry picking feels natural, like I’ve always done it. The smells are intoxicating. The sounds are beautiful, from the buzzing bugs and chirping birds to the gentle breeze rustling the huckleberry leaves. These are the meaningful experiences that we all need to share in.”

 Mountain huckleberry season is short, lasting only a few weeks between August and September. The sought after super food and medicine ranges in color from red to deep blue to maroon. They are similar to a blueberry in appearance and much sweeter than a cranberry, with many people rating huckleberries as the tastiest of the berry bunch. The gate to swədaʔx̌ali will only remain opened for a couple more weeks, so don’t miss the opportunity to harvest, take in breathtaking views, and, most importantly, express your tribal sovereignty.

Huckleberry Health Benefits:

  • Huckleberries are full of antioxidants, compounds that are essential for improving the health of numerous systems within the body, while also preventing the development of serious health issues.
  • An excellent source of vitamin A and B, huckleberries are great for promoting a healthy metabolism which in turn helps reduce the risk of stroke. They are also known to help stave off macular degeneration as well as viruses and bacteria.
  • Huckleberries are associated with lowering cholesterol; protecting against heart diseases, muscular degeneration, glaucoma, varicose veins, and ulcers.
  • Huckleberries are an excellent source of iron which helps build new red blood cells and helps fatigue associated with iron deficiency.
  • High in vitamin C, huckleberries protect the body against immune deficiencies, cardiovascular diseases, prenatal health problems, and eye diseases.

Monitoring Water Quality at Mission Beach

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

It has been a hot summer at Tulalip this year, with record-breaking heat during the last week of June reaching over 100-degrees, and multiple 80-degree days so far, people are getting out and having fun in the sun, taking advantage of weather that comes very seldom to the Pacific Northwest.

There are many ways Western Washingtonians can enjoy the clear skies and warm weather and some of those summertime activities include hiking and exploring nature, taking a scenic cruise with the windows down and good tunes blasting, visiting a zoo or a waterpark, catching a Mariners game, floating the river, or enjoying a cookout with your closest friends and family members. 

Tulalip tribal members have additional options to connect with their culture, traditions and people during the summer months such as huckleberry picking, cedar-harvesting, fishing, canoe-pulling, participating in the Salmon Ceremony and Spee-Bi-Dah festivities, and of course you can’t forget, spending the day at Mission Beach. Whether swimming, exercising, relaxing, or simply creating good times with good friends, Mission Beach is a staple destination for the local community, especially when blessed with gorgeous weather.

To ensure the safety of the public, Tulalip Natural Resources has monitored the waters at Mission Beach every summer since 2016, with the exception of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The local waters are integral to the Tulalip people whose ancestors traveled upon and procured nourishment from since time immemorial. With each passing generation, memories are made at Mission Beach by Tulalip youth who splash amongst the waters and laugh along the shoreline. By monitoring the bacteria present in the Mission Beach waters, the Natural Resources department is making sure the kids, elders and everyone in-between can safely continue swimming at the beach. 

“We do the Mission Beach sampling every year during the summer,” said Tulalip Natural Resources Storm Water Planner, Valerie Streeter. “We’re catching the times that people are out in the water and we take a sample in the areas where people will swim.”

Samples are taken from three separate spots along the beach when the tide is in and the average bacteria level is calculated and recorded based on those samples. 

Valerie stated, “If we get too much bacteria, people start to get sick. I heard stories of people who contracted a stomach illness, some had diarrhea or they got a skin rash. Sometimes it can be more serious like typhoid fever. If it’s not healthy, it basically means there’s a lot of sewage in the water and that’s what we’re measuring. We use one particular indicator that the EPA said correlates with human sickness, so that’s why we chose that and that’s really why we’re monitoring the water, trying to protect us humans.”

Over the years, Mission Beach has had great water quality, and the bacteria level never once rose over the 104 bacteria threshold limit. Twice in 2016, during the first year of testing, the bacteria levels reached 80 or above. There were three readings in 2017 that showed the bacteria level exceeded 20. But other than that, all the measurements from 2018, 2019 and 2021 have been low and the bacteria level remained under 20. In fact, the highest it has reached this summer is 14. 

The water samples are collected and recorded by volunteers of the WSU Beach Watchers. Every year prior to summer, Valerie and the Beach Watchers hold a training over the course of one day to teach volunteers how to take accurate bacteria level samples. Samples are taken on a weekly-basis for the duration of summer, from Memorial Day to Labor Day. After the volunteers collect the water sample, they deliver it to the Tulalip Water Quality Lab, based at the Tulalip Fish Hatchery, where Harvey Eastman, the Water Quality Program Manager, grows the bacteria to get an accurate reading of how much bacteria is actually present in the three samples. 

With low bacteria readings so far, the water quality at Mission Beach has been great all summer long. Valerie encourages the community to have some safe, healthy fun and to enjoy some of the remaining days of summer down in the waters of Mission Beach. The volunteer WSU Beach Watchers will continue collecting samples through Labor Day, so be sure to give them a friendly wave and ask any questions if you are feeling inquisitive about the local water quality.  

Valerie shared, “If you’re interested, come out to our training next year and learn how to collect water samples and measure it’s temperature and salinity. It’s not that hard and every time you collect a sample, you get to enjoy a beautiful morning at Mission Beach.”

For more information, please contact Valerie at (360) 716-4629.

Family Wellness Court, strengthening and reuniting families

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

Nearly five months ago, The Tulalip Tribal Justice Department introduced a new program for Tulalip parents who are struggling with an addiction. It’s a structured plan for the parent who is ready to kick their habit and regain custody of their children for good. 

Tulalip Family Wellness Court is, in many ways, modeled after the success of the Healing to Wellness Court, only the new program is voluntary-based, without the criminal, mandated-court element. And in addition to helping tribal members get clean and maintain a healthy and sober lifestyle, the Family Wellness Court focuses primarily on one goal, reunifying parents with their children in an effective, timely and responsible manner. 

“We’re one of the first in the nation to be doing this as a tribe because we want our people to be healthy, happy and successful,” said Melissa Johnson, Family Wellness Court Coordinator. “We want people to understand it’s different than the standard dependency proceedings that parents involved with beda?chelh go through. With more frequent review hearings in the drug court model, they get a chance to show their progress in real-time. 

“They tend to get their kids back faster in this type of program because of the intensive case management and the added support. We are still new and maybe people don’t know about us yet, but the program is 100% voluntary. They have to have an open dependency with beda?chelh. And if they want to work on getting their kids back, they can benefit from our team approach.”

That team approach is a big aspect of the Family Wellness Court. The team consists of multiple professionals including Tribal courthouse officials, attorneys, beda?chelh representatives, counselors and recovery specialists. The idea is that with everybody meeting regularly and on the same page, the client will stay in-compliance and will make positive progress in maintaining their sobriety if they know exactly what their team expects from them.

Kelly Prayerwarrior, Family Recovery Support Specialist, explained her role as one of those team members in the Family Wellness Court system, “I’m a parent advocate, I help the parent if they need help finding resources for school or housing, maybe visitation with their kids, or whatever they need to help move them forward so they can get their kids back. I think the Family Wellness Court is really exciting. I like the wrap-around services that we offer. We definitely have a system that’s built for success. If the people come in and really work the system, they will see success.”  

As a member of the team themselves, the clients will receive a personalized game-plan to reunification and their success depends on what they put into the program. If they give it their all and follow the plan to a T, clients will more than likely have their kids back much sooner than they would with the standard custody process. 

“It’s an alternative to the current dependency proceedings,” said Melissa. “I think there is an advantage to the team approach, recognizing the successes, strengths and any issues that may arise in real time, other than waiting. Because with the current dependency proceedings, months can go by between hearings. I think with Family Wellness Court, the courtroom becomes a therapeutic environment. You see that relationship with the judge and the team, it’s not adversarial at all. It’s so much different from when you go to court and everything seems scary. The judge comes off the podium and sits with us.” 

Judge Michelle Demmert presides over each case and builds a strong connection with the clients. She previously mentioned that the Family Wellness Court model is important to the tribal community and that the program is special to her personally. As a recovering addict, Judge Demmert has seen both sides of the coin, and she often goes out of her way to let the client know she understands how hard recovery can be, making her support and encouragement that much more authentic to the parent throughout the hearings. 

“To me, personally, I’m 33 years in recovery,” expressed Judge Demmert.  “I think it’s really important for people to know that about me so that they don’t think I’m judging them like I’ve never been in their situation, when most likely I have. I want them to know that there’s hope, that I believe in them and that I love them.”

So far, the Family Wellness Court has helped multiple parents begin the reunification process. In the very first court hearing, Judge Demmert explained that the clients should expect setbacks and that it’s important to learn from any relapses that may occur.

Melissa explained that up to this point, though there are many clients who are ‘super-compliant’, there are those parents who aren’t in-compliance but she believes that in time, the program will prove to work for them as well.

She stated, “Even the people who aren’t 100% in-compliance, I see them still showing up every week, and that is progress. Just showing up is progress and realizing that we’re still here for them no matter what. We’re all working together, working toward the goal of reunification and for the kids to stay home, to stay out of the system and to stop that cycle. We can help strengthen families and get families reunited faster. All the parents want their kids back, but sometimes it seems so far out of reach. We try to help people with that and bring that support.”

The Family Wellness Court is currently taking on new clients. If you, or anybody you know is ready for a new approach to sobriety and reunification, and are ready and willing to take on the intensive, but evidence-based, model in order to regain custody, please contact Melissa at (360) 716-4764.

Garden Treasures is the perfect family outing

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

Have you been desperately wanting to have a family outing to enjoy the summer weather, but want to stay close to home and not break the bank? Well, a trip to Garden Treasures to harvest from a variety of nutritious food, grown locally may be the ideal destination. This organic u-pick farm is located just over 20 minutes from the heart of the Tulalip Reservation. Conveniently located off exit 208, Garden Treasurers offers an everyday farmers market and garden center filled with fresh food.

Taking the family on a farm excursion to pick produce allows children to gain a sense of where their food comes from, demonstrates the satisfaction of seeing how seeds grow into fresh produce that nourish their body, and is a fun way to spend a summer day together.

“I really enjoy having elders and kids visit the farm,” said farm regular, Tulalip elder Dale Jones. “They have big smiles on their faces while enjoying the opportunity to be out in the farm and eat the fresh foods. The kids can see how the food grows and they learn how it’s better for them than fast food and candy. Too many of our people our battling diabetes and obesity because they learned bad eating habits as kids. Making fruits and vegetables a priority at a young age can really make a lifetime’s worth of impact.”

Spending time outdoors while wandering the vast berry fields and green houses at Garden Treasurers is an opportunity to get back to nature, both physically and spiritually. Their seasonal u-pick garden is currently filled with an assortment of flowers, perfectly ripe raspberries and strawberries, and a variety of vegetables, like bell peppers, cucumbers, zucchini and onions. They don’t use any synthetic chemicals or fertilizers, so your u-pick experience is safe, clean, and all-natural.

Tulalip tribal members, their families, patients of the Tulalip Health Clinic, and Tulalip employees were encouraged to take full advantage of a unique partnership between Garden Treasures and Tulalip’s own award-winning Diabetes Care and Prevention Program. From 10am to 4pm on July 13th, the Tulalip community turned out in droves to visit the farm, enjoy a healthy bite to eat, and receive a tour by Diabetes Care staff. Most importantly, each visiting household was allowed to pick $30 worth of nutritious produce.

Unlike overly priced grocery stores and organic shops, $30 worth of fruits and vegetables at Garden Treasures goes a long way. You can easily pick an assortment of sweet and spicy peppers, enough raspberries for the kids to snack on for days, some herbs to season up your favorite meals, and make a flower bouquet with the $30 credit. Numerous Tulalip citizens did just that, and for many it was their first time ever picking veggies. 

Donna and Jim Furchert brought their daughters, Joy and Patience, to Garden Treasures and came away with quite the colorful harvest. “We’ve never picked fresh fruit or fresh veggies before, so I wanted us to experience this as a family,” explained Donna. “We’re going to incorporate everything we picked into our dinners over the next few days.”

Six-year-old Patience said she liked digging for peppers the most and was super excited to stumble upon the strawberry patch. She was seen devouring the bright red, heart-shaped berry straight off the bush at every opportunity.

Michelle Martin was another first timer to the Arlington farm. She brought her three young boys Anthony, Brayden and Caiden on an afternoon outing with their grandma and grandpa. “It’s our first time out here and we absolutely love it!” said Michelle while perusing the fields. “Never knew we had a u-pick farm this close to the reservation. This seems like an ideal way to get fresh veggies and fruit. My boys love fruits and were excited to run around the farm to pick their own berries.”

When 5-year-old Anthony and 3-year-old Brayden were told they could pick out some flowers to make their mom a bouquet, they quickly scoured the spacious flower gardens for a colorful bounty.  

For a Tulalip community desiring to eat healthier in order to escape the processed food and refined sugar wasteland, Garden Treasurers is an oasis offering a variety of essential nutrients and vitamins that can make everyday meals more nutritious. Those who eat more fruits and vegetables as part of an overall healthy diet are likely to have a reduced risk of chronic diseases and a better immune system. Plus, eating fresh produce will make you feel better and have more energy to take on every day challenges of the 21st century. 

In addition to all the health benefits is the wisdom and positive encouragement the dedicated Diabetes Care and Prevention Program staff had to offer to those visiting the farm. They were willing to assist in produce selections, answer any questions, and offer advice about healthy meal making and dietary requirements for those managing diabetes.  

“I am getting to an age in life when it’s important to pass down knowledge and share my gifts with others, especially the younger generation,” explained Roni Leahy, Diabetes Program coordinator. “I love being with the people and listening to them talk about their experiences in the garden or the kids discovering how the plants they eat grow. It is such a precious opportunity to talk about the plants and how important they are in health of our bodies. This truly is prevention of diabetes and other chronic diseases.”

“My favorite part is seeing the community members and their families out at the farm enjoying the vegetables and knowing they are going to go home and prepare a meal they will all remember and enjoy,” added Brooke Morrison, Diabetes Program assistant.

 Visiting Gardening Treasures u-pick farm to harvest the freshest foods can boost your family’s health without creating a dent in your wallet. Bringing the kids can only help them create a lasting relationship with their nature world, while planting seeds of curiosity and excitement for eating a variety of clean food, grown locally. Maybe even, this will be the inspiration your family needs to plant a garden at home.

During the summer months, the farm offers some of the best fresh produce around. Try and grow a diverse palette of seasonal products for a single meal, or stock up the pantry for winter. The next few weeks are the perfect time to find sweet strawberries, delicious raspberries and other garden-fresh produce at your local, organic u-pick farm.

Family Spirit: Evidence-based, home-visit program developed for Natives by Natives

Sasha Smith, Family Haven  Family and Youth Support Coordinator.

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

To spread the word about their new program, Family Spirit, Tulalip Family Haven held a giveaway last month, raffling off fun summertime prizes such as sidewalk chalk, a Radio Flyer Wagon and bubble wands for young kiddos and their families. Participants were entered into the raffle simply by calling-in and inquiring about the program and hearing how Family Spirit can assist them along their parenting journey.

Geared toward tribal members who are either moms-to-be, expectant fathers, grandparents or caregivers of a Tulalip child under the age of three, the program is a resource that families can utilize during the early years of their kid’s childhood, to help establish a strong foundation for both the child and parent as they grow together.  

Although Family Spirit is new to the community of Tulalip, the program has actually helped thousands of tribal families across the country since the early nineties. Developed by the John Hopkins Center for American Indian Health, Family Spirit is a home-visiting program that was designed for Natives by Natives, who unfortunately knew all too well about the struggles that many Indigenous families face, largely due to a lack of resources and support for first-time parents and families raising young children.

Sasha Smith, Family Haven’s Family and Youth Support Coordinator, explained, “Family Spirit has been really successful in other tribal communities. It’s evidence-based and the information is culturally relevant, and we really try to intertwine our Tulalip culture and what those experiences look like for us. We talk about historical trauma to get a better understanding of why parents parent the way we do.”

Addressing future participants of Family Spirit, Sasha continued, “Your first meeting would be an opportunity for us to get to know you, what stage of parenting you’re in, a little bit about your hopes and dreams and what parenting looks like for you. And depending on where you are at, we’ll go from there.”

The program’s area of focus surrounds having a safe and healthy pregnancy and subsequently, raising a healthy and happy baby by teaching parents about childbirth, newborn care, and early childhood development. The participants design a personalized parenting plan and Family Spirit provides any necessary and available resources, as well as modern and traditional teachings in regards to parenting. Most importantly they offer their support, helping empower young parents by giving them the tools to ensure their child has everything they need to embark on a bright future.

  “We have lessons that we go by, but if you don’t want to talk about a certain topic right away, we can form it to the way you need it to be,” Sasha stated. “If you don’t want to talk about labor and delivery, we can talk about getting the home ready and what a safe home looks like to bring home baby. Or we can do goalsetting for a healthy family. And at the beginning and the ending of each meeting that we have, we’ll do referrals. So, if they need to get on WIC or they need to contact housing, whatever it is, we can check up on that – just making sure we share those resources with them.”

Along with helping their clients with all their children’s needs, Family Spirit also assists parents by making sure they’re on track to meet their personal life goals, providing referrals for job training, or helping them through the process of beginning or continuing their academic career, and even routinely checking-in with a parent who is in recovery.

Ideally, in a COVID-free world, the Family Spirit paraprofessional (i.e. Sasha) would pay a weekly visit to the client’s home in order to conduct lessons or provide services, for as long as the parent or family requested or until the child reached the age of three. However, since the virus is still present, Sasha explained that for the time being they are willing to make adjustments so that parents, caregivers and families are comfortable when participating in the program. 

“We’ll meet the client wherever they want,” she said. “Primarily we are an in-home service, but it all depends on the comfort level of the parent. We can do Zoom, we can meet in-person at my office, or we can find a place where they’re most comfortable. The kids can be included or not included. It’s really just trying to meet them where they’re at, building that personal connection and learning what they need to grow as a parent.”

To learn more about Family Spirit, please contact Family Haven at (360) 716-4402.